Individuals who have higher dietary intake of foods with omega-3 fatty acids and higher fish consumption have a reduced risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration, while those with higher serum levels of vitamin D may have a reduced risk of the early stages of the disease, according to two reports in the May issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when the macula, the area at the back of the retina that produces the sharpest vision, deteriorates over time. It is the most common cause of blindness among older adults in the United States, affecting more than 7 million individuals older than 40 years, according to background information in the articles. The prevalence of AMD is likely to increase as the population ages. There is currently no known way to prevent the condition, but research has begun to identify potentially modifiable risk factors and nutrient-based treatments.
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group assessed 4,519 individuals who were age 60 to 80 when they enrolled in 1992 through 1998. At that time, photographs were taken of their retinas to determine if they had AMD, and if so, to which of four stages the condition had progressed. The participants also completed a food frequency questionnaire that measured how often they consumed foods rich in certain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in tuna, salmon and other fish.
A total of 1,115 participants did not have any symptoms of AMD at the beginning of the study, and were compared with those who did, including 658 individuals with neovascular (severe) AMD. "Dietary total omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake was inversely associated with neovascular AMD, as was docosahexaenoic acid," or DHA, a fatty acid that previous evidence suggests affects the retina, the authors write. "Higher fish consumption, both total and br
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